Now that you have learned about and practiced basic hovering skills, you should be able to hover a helicopter within a twenty foot circle for at least one full minute. If you can’t do this yet, practice until you have reached these goals. If you have developed these skills, it is time to work towards your next level of proficiency.
Take your time and don’t try to rush through these exercises. It is very important that you master each of these skills. These are the building blocks to your helicopter flying success.
It is now time to take your ship a little higher. Up to now, you should have kept your helicopter close to the ground and not let it get much higher than a few inches. Give yourself a new height limit of one to two feet. Take your ship up to this new level and continue to hold it in a stabilized hover. This should not be a very big step for you but it is important to be able to keep your ship at this altitude in order to learn these next exercises. This altitude permits you to move the helicopter around more easily but is still close enough to the ground to permit a safe landing by bringing the throttle back when needed. When you feel comfortable with this new altitude, it is time to start working on your hovering ground maneuvers. These basically consist of purposefully moving your helicopter over specific imaginary lines on the ground using the cyclic controls. You must keep the nose of your ship pointing directly away from you and into the wind during these exercises.
Take your helicopter up to about two feet and get it stabilized into a hover. Gently apply a little right cyclic control and let your ship drift to the right only about five feet. A little left rudder may be needed to keep the nose straight. Once your helicopter has reached this position, stop its motion and enter a stabilized hover. Hold this position for a few seconds and then use a little left cyclic control. Move the helicopter back to its original starting position and finish with another hover. A small amount of right rudder may be needed on this side. Use what you need in order to keep the nose straight. If you run into any problems, simply throttle back as early as possible and save your ship. Try this again a few times until you feel comfortable. Now try the same exercise to the left. Enter a hover to your left side and then return to the helicopter’s original position. Repeat this as many times as needed.
Now combine the two. Move the helicopter to the right position, stop, use left cyclic and continue past your starting point and stop at the left hover position. Use right cyclic and return to the center and hover. Once you can perform this easily, start by moving to the left position first and then continue past center to the right side. Continue these exercises until you can easily follow these lines without having to use much thought.
When you have perfected the side to side line flying, it is time to practice this same technique flying in forward and backward directions. Don’t exceed three to four feet at this time. This is about the highest you can safely take your ship and be fairly certain of saving your helicopter by throttling back.
Continue these same maneuvers at these higher altitudes. Remember to take your time and don’t push yourself too quickly. The goal here is to be able to move your ship exactly where you want it when you want to and have complete control over it at all times.
Practice these complex movements until you gain your confidence; you will need it for the next exercise!
You are now ready to put all you have learned into one very difficult hovering maneuver; the figure 8. A smooth figure 8 is your goal in this part of your training. In order to perform this maneuver, you must be able to coordinate all of the helicopter controls simultaneously.
Let’s start with smaller pieces and eventually put them all together. Begin with your helicopter hovering at the center position. Now apply a very small amount of left cyclic and let your helicopter start to drift to the left. As soon as it begins to move, add a little forward cyclic. Once it begins to move in a forward direction, slowly change the left cyclic control to the neutral position and continue to the right. When your ship begins to move to the right, neutralize and then apply back cyclic. Shortly after this, change the roll cyclic to neutral and begin using forward cyclic as your helicopter approaches the central position. You have just completed one large circle with the nose pointed in the same direction away from you. This description may sound a bit more difficult than it is to actually perform this maneuver. Before your first attempt at this maneuver, sit down with your transmitter and visualize the circle in your head.
When making your first attempts, be sure to keep the speed of the helicopter slow and controlled. Also, avoid gaining too much altitude. At this point, you will begin to notice that as the helicopter moves more quickly especially into the wind, that it will actually begin to enter translational lift and climb. If this occurs, simply decrease your throttle/collective control in order to maintain the proper altitude.
Likewise, when the helicopter slows down, it will lose the translational lift and begin a descent. Try to anticipate this and add throttle as it is needed. Finally, the tail control needed throughout this maneuver will constantly vary and it will take time to master the necessary corrections.
Practice this circle in one direction until you feel comfortable with the controls. Now go on to practicing a circle in the other direction. When you can perform each well, put the two together. Try to smoothly transition from one to the other by letting the helicopter drift slowly towards you while applying roll and pitch cyclic.
As you can see, this maneuver requires constant control and coordinated cyclic, rudder and throttle/collective inputs. Practice it and learn it well so you can make the next few transitions more easily. Each step is more difficult and you will need a solid base of abilities to build upon.
For more help in learning to fly helis from one of the world's best, order Dr. Bob's book on beginning helicopter flight by calling 800-390-HAWK.